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Get Your Clients To Be Inbound Marketing Agency Clients In 30 Minutes

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Feb 3, 2016 7:00:00 AM

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SPECIAL REPORT: How To Get Your Project Clients To Be Inbound Agency Clients In Just 30 Minutes

Project Clients Love Inbound MarketingMy work with inbound marketing agency owners has given me tremendous insight into the major challenges facing owners today and by far the biggest challenge is moving away from your legacy project clients and towards more stable inbound retainer clients.

The challenges are real and sometimes seem insurmountable. How do you walk away from revenue? How do you turn down business? How do you afford your team if you’re not doing projects? Where will new retainer clients come from if we don’t do projects? If I tell clients no, who’ll hire us? I get it. There are a lot of questions.

In this Special Report, I’ll help you work through all these issues so you successful manage a full transition from commoditized project shop to unique inbound agency.

Why This Is Making Your Story Complicated

Clients are nervous to begin with. It’s your job to calm them down and get them to know, like and trust you. You have to make them feel safe before they’ll hire you. Your entire marketing and sales efforts should be centered around helping them feel safe. This is why inbound works so well. You don’t sell, you educate.

But when you spend 15 minutes talking about inbound, changes in buyer behavior, why interruptive marketing doesn’t work anymore and why they want to earn a prospect’s attention instead of renting it—only to downshift into “sure we can handle your direct mail program or website project.” You’ve just sent a major mixed signal to a potential client. “Is inbound marketing what I want or it sounds like I can just keep doing what I’ve always been doing, now I’m confused.” Confusion equals nervous and nervous equals no new client.

The same holds true for your team. They’re nervous about inbound marketing too and when they see a major portion of the company continuing to do what they’ve always done that sends them a signal—it’s business as usual. No need to learn anything new, no need to tell any new stories, no need to change.

While it might seem hard to go ALL IN on inbound. It’s actually harder and it’s going to be more painful for a longer time to go partially in on inbound.

Getting Your Clients On Board

If you don’t read anything else, read this. The best way to get your clients to help with your transition is to ask them. Yes, I know this is surprising but you should consider calling all your project clients and let them know what’s going on. Why they should care, how this change is going to help them, and what you can do for them going forward that maybe you were never able to do for them before.

This is going to make you feel a whole lot better. These clients already like you. They already trust you. So you calling them to introduce a new way to market their companies is not going to be bad, they’re going to view it as positive, proactive and another indication that you care about them and their businesses.

Make sure this call is about them, not about you. It’s not about you moving to inbound. It’s not about you changing your business model. It is about you being able to help them more strategically. It is about you being able to more for them. It is about you finally being able to help them generate leads and grow their businesses.

Something else interesting is going to come out of this conversation. You’re going to find out who your best clients are by their reaction. Clients who see this as an opportunity and who want to talk to you more about it are going to be great inbound marketing clients for you. Clients who see this as negative or are concerned about how much you’re going to charge them are not going to be good long term clients and likely wouldn’t have been with you for much longer anyway. Now they’ve identified themselves so you can be proactive about it. This is very positive.

So in one or two afternoons you should have a very good idea about the revenue potential for inbound from your current clients and the potential risk of client’s leaving. I’m 100% positive that there will be 10 to 1 ratio of clients who are excited about your changes vs. those that are concerned.

Now start setting up those meetings and let’s get these clients on board.

Getting Your Team On Board

Now you have the clients lined up, you have to get your team lined up too. I’m a little more deliberate when it comes to the team. My suggestion is you sit them down and share your vision for your agency. Tell them the mission you’re on and reiterate how this relates to your core values. If you have the right people in the right seats on the bus, this should be exciting to them too. If you don’t, those people will identify themselves and you might have to work them out of the business.

Don’t waver. If you’re ALL IN, they need to be ALL IN too. There are plenty of digital shops in your area. If they don’t want to work at an inbound agency, they can go to one of those “me too” agencies to do what they’ve always done—be ordinary. You want to surround yourself with people who want to do something special, who are on your journey with you and who will do anything to help you get there. It’s always positive to replace someone ordinary with someone extraordinary.

Making the Financials Work

One of the first moves you need to make is how you get paid. Most agencies tally up all their hours for the month at the end of the month. They send the invoice along to the client and then wait 30 days or longer to get paid. No good. Inbound agencies get paid upfront or they don’t work. Yes, you have to break this to your client. If they want to work with you, everything you do is fixed price. That should be good news to them and in consideration for that, they pay you upfront. No negotiation on that.

Now you have the money to pay for your team. Clients might need a gentle reminder the first few months but they always get in line. As you move from projects to monthly retainers you’ll quickly see the cash flow and top line revenue even out. Those big spikes from projects will disappear and you’ll be able to project revenue out three and even six months. This should help you feel more comfortable about hiring to support the new client growth and your new inbound services.

Take it slow and hire only to revenue. As your client’s convert or new client’s come in build a bench of potential team members and add them slowly as the clients sign up. The more revenue the more team members you need and the more you can hire. Keep this under control by setting net profit and gross profit margin targets and keep those intact as you ramp up.

I’m not oversimplifying it. It should be that easy.

Planning A Reasonable Timeframe

Ok, you’re in a cold sweat now. Don’t worry. You don’t have to do all this tomorrow but you do need to set a reasonable timeframe for this change. If you don’t it’s going to be January 2017 and you’re asking yourself the same questions. Why can’t I grow?

Start slow. Make February about reaching out to clients. Nothing else. Make March about working through team issues and clearly articulating vision and mission. March might also be dedicated to replacing some team members who are not on board. Going slow also keeps the clients from seeing major changes in a short amount of time and gives you plenty of time to talk to clients and get them comfortable with the new thinking and your new services.

Make April your launch month. Better yet, make it May. That gives you a 30-day grace period to make sure you’re completely ready. You are going to have to redo your website and make sure everyone is telling clients and prospects the same compelling, emotional and engaging story about inbound.

This schedule gives you plenty of time to get things together, talk to your clients, talk to your team and think through your transition approach. This won’t help you learn how to do inbound, but the only way to learn that is by doing. The faster you start doing the faster you’ll get good at it.

No, this transition is not going to be easy and yes, maybe the title was a little misleading. But hey, I’m a marketer and I was really referring to the conversation with your clients because that will only take 30 minutes.

If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Instead, those special agency owners who are smart enough to go after it and astute enough to manage their agencies through the change are going to reap all the rewards. Once you’re through you won’t recognize your agency but it will be built for the future and built to drive top line revenue and bottom line profits.

Follow the directions above and you’ll see progress faster than you probably think. If nothing else, you’ll get the client feedback that should give you the confidence to continue down this path and if you execute this plan effectively, you might even get enough client excitement to help you push forward even faster.

Start Today Tip – Let’s keep it simple. Select two clients. One of your best and one of your not so great clients. These have to be legacy business clients. Maybe they only buy one service from you like SEO or maybe they only come to you for project work. Spend an hour rehearsing your new story. After you feel like the story is appropriately about them and not about you, take it out for a test drive with your best client. Keep in mind the worst case scenario is that they say no and you’re right where you are no. That’s not very risky. Best case scenario is you have a potentially new inbound client. Yay!

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Topics: Inbound Marketing Agency, inbound agency growth, inbound marketing agency transition, inbound agency planning

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